June 9, 2016

Start-Up Branding: E-mail ID Rendering

Long back, I had a south Indian friend, let’s call him Ramakrishnan Nandhakumar (not his real name). After studying at MIT, he got hired at a Fortune 500 company in the Twin Towers. When he had sent me an email from his corporate account, it rendered in my inbox like this: 

Ramakrishnan X Nandakumar <ramakrishnan.x.nandhakumar@.......>

I was very confused about the X. I asked him if he had a middle name I did not know about. He said, not at all. I have no other names beside Ramakrishnan and Nandhakumar. My company formats the email IDs against U.S. naming conventions of full first name, dot, middle name first initial, dot, full last name. Since I don’t have a middle name, X marks the spot! Lots of other South Indians or colleagues from cultures without middle names have an x to mark that spot, too. 

I always found that funny. But, as I, Jennifer Kumar, through Authentic Journeys, have worked with over 20 Indian start ups formally, and have interacted by email with over 100, I have now understood the importance of branding even in how e-mail IDs are formatted. 


This projects an image, or a company brand. 


It also establishes a process, making it easy to formulate an email ID for anyone in the company, once you know the formula (This could be good or bad for security reasons.). 


Based on my experience seeing so many different email IDs and name renderings, I’d like to share a few tips I think you can apply in your own startup to project a brand from how the email renders in the recipient’s inbox to how it displays when it is opened. 


Take a Look at an Example of Unformatted E-mails
Here is an example of how some email IDs/names rendered in an email from a sister concern of a company with it's headquarters and management in the U.S.

Various employees had sent me e-mails. Everyone's name rendered different in the inbox. Here were the examples (Names changed to protect privacy. If these names are anyone you know, it's purely by accident.) 

What I saw in my Email Inbox:
Name Subject Line
joy.d U.S. Culture Training
Renjith Haridas Meeting with CEO
faroz (company.com) Entry pass to Infopark
"sam.d" Hotel Booking
MANOJ P Running Late


(Note: Their email IDs were standardized, but how their names rendered in the inbox were not. This projects a very bad image for the company. One that shows maybe English is not such a strong language for the employees of the company. Let's get rid of this image today, together, so you create strong first impressions from the inbox itself!) 

Tips for Name Rendering in the E-mail Inbox
Choose a format and stick to it for all employees in the company. 


Preferred examples using my name include:  
  • Jennifer Kumar <jenkumar@....>
    First name, first letter capitalized, space, last name with first name capitalized. This is the first preference. 
  • J. Kumar  <jenkumar@....>
    First name represented only by the first letter capitalized with a dot after it, space, full first name with first letter capitalized. This would be somewhat an acceptable image to present to U.S. counterparts, but the first option above would be preferred. 

Avoid these examples (which may be sent to spam before they even have a chance to be seen): 
  • Jennifer K.  <jenkumar@....> First name, first letter capitalized, space, only the first letter of last name capitalized with a full stop (period) after it. I would not suggest this if working with U.S. clients, though. 
  • Jennifer  <jenkumar@....>
    Only the first name with the first letter capitalized. I have seen this in quite a few start ups in India. This is not a good method to render names if one wants to work with U.S. clients. As one start up CEO with experience in the U.S. told me, the only people in the U.S. who dare to go by one name are famous (Or in some cases, infamous) celebrities like Madonna, Cher, etc. This naming convention would not be taken seriously by U.S. clients or counterparts. Especially, if someone is cold emailing with this kind of email rendering, the receiver would probably delete the message without even opening it. Big companies may even write logarithms to bar such emails from even entering one’s inbox. 
  • Jennifer-Kumar  <jenkumar@....>
    Jennifer.kumar  <jenkumar@....>
    jenniferkumar  <jenkumar@....>
    These examples show renderings of email user IDs in the area where the name of the person goes. 
  • Jennifer Kumar *$#  <jenkumar@....>
    Avoid any strange characters in the name rendering. These may not render in everyone's inboxes the same way, and can cause problems actually reading the name.
Adding title or location after the name 
Some startups have noted the branch name, location, team name or other identifier after the name.  


Most e-mail clients will restrict the number of characters that render in both the name and subject line. Receivers don’t really care about seeing those additional details. Those details can go in the signature inside the email. But, if it is really needed, a format like this is preferred:  

  • Jennifer Kumar, India Head Office
    First name, first letter capitalized, space, last name, first letter capitalized, comma (no space between the last letter of the last name and the comma), space, title or location, with each first letter capitalized. 
These renderings are incorrect:
  1. Jennifer Kumar , India Head Office
  2. Jennifer Kumar ,India Head Office
  3. JenniferKumar, IndiaHeadOffice 
Do not reduces spaces to save on the number of characters. This will reduce the credibility of your company. 

How to choose the E-mail ID User Name
Most formats for the email ID user name I have seen make sense. The email ID user name that I am referring to is the highlighted part of the e-mail ID below. Since I am not technical, please excuse me for not using the correct technical term. 


Ramakrishnan X Nandakumar

It’s ideal to choose one standard formatting strategy for the email ID/user name, and apply it across the board. Take note, as the above example, it’s ideal to keep all the letters in lower case for a crisp look. If capitalization is preferred, capitalize the first letter of every name and any initials, like this:

  • Ramakrishnan X Nandakumar 
Use of Initials
Click here for more tips.
In many parts of South India, it’s common to use initials instead of the full name, as the names can be very long. In the case of Ramakrishnan Nandakumar, his name could be rendered as: 

  • R.K. Nandakumar
  • N.K. Ramakrishnan 
  • N. Ramakrishnan
  • Ramakrishnan N.K. 
If you prefer to use initials in the naming convention, keep in mind:
  • Both initials need to be in the upper case
  • With or without dots between the letters is acceptable, but choose one and apply it consistently across all e-mail IDs RK Nandakumar R.K. Nandakumar 
These are incorrect:
  • R.K.Nandakumar <Ramakrishnan.X.Nandhakumar@.......>
  • R.K Nandakumar <Ramakrishnan.X.Nandhakumar@.......>
  • R.k Nandakumar<Ramakrishnan.X.Nandhakumar@.......>
  • rk Nandakumar <Ramakrishnan.X.Nandhakumar@.......>
  • RK nandakumar <Ramakrishnan.X.Nandhakumar@.......>
  • RK NandaKumar <Ramakrishnan.X.Nandhakumar@.......>


This post has been a basic overview of how to brand your e-mail when setting up your startup with tips on how to improve the formatting of characters and names to impress U.S. clients when sending e-mail. Many larger companies have style guides that help maintain a process for corporate communication branding. Does your start up want a style guide?

Feel free to share your opinions and ideas in the comment section below. 

Jennifer Kumar, author of this post, helps Indian startups impress American customers, continue long term relationships with U.S. clients and get better projects through innovative business culture training and consultation services. Contact us for more information today.

Related Posts: 
How to communicate your Start Up's Unique Selling Point (USP) 
8 Mistakes to Avoid in E-mails 
E-mail Workshop 

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